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Alexander Hleb: "I regret leaving Arsenal for Barcelona"

The Belorussian failed to live up to expectations at the Camp Nou after joining from Arsenal in 2008 and now admits that he made a mistake in moving to Spain
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Hleb, jugador del BATE.

Alexander Hleb has admitted that he “made a mistake” leaving Arsenal for Barcelona in 2008. The Belorussian moved to Spain for a fee in the region of €15 million but failed to make an impact, being loaned out after just one season before finally leaving the club on a permanent basis in 2012.

Approaching 36, Hleb now plays for BATE Borisov in his native Belarus and is on the verge of securing a league title but has expressed his regret that his career has never got back on track since leaving London.

I regret leaving Arsenal, says Hleb

I was at the peak of my abilities in London and living some of the best moments of my career,” he said in an interview with Reuters.

“In my first season we reached the Champions League final, which we lost. But I remember it a lot more than the final that I actually won with Barcelona in 2009. I didn’t play,” he added.

Hleb became a mainstay in Arsene Wenger's side after joining from Stuttgart
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Hleb became a mainstay in Arsene Wenger's side after joining from StuttgartREUTERS

Hleb, whose spell at the Emirates coincided with the club’s high-profile dry spell, didn’t win a single title while at Arsenal but he quickly became a key component of Arsene Wenger’s side. After just a season in Barcelona, however, he was loaned out to his former club Stuttgart before having subsequent spells with Birmingham City and Wolfsburg, also on loan.

Part of me regrets not staying at Arsenal,” he said. “Wenger was like a father to me and he trusted me. It saddens me to think about it. But at the same time, Barcelona was – and is – the bigger club. I didn’t play as much, but I did play a bit.”

Guardiola not to blame for failed Barcelona spell

Hleb doesn’t blame Pep Guardiola, his manager at Barcelona, for his failed spell at the club, citing his own poor attitude. “I should have been more professional,” he said. “I acted like a teenager.”

However, he did admit that the coach didn’t make it easy for him. “Guardiola was young and had just arrived at the club. He didn’t find the right words for me,” he said.

“If Wenger had been in that position he would have come up to me and spoken to me,” he continued. “I don’t blame Guardiola; I should have been more professional. If I hadn’t taken that bad decision I could have played at the top for another five years.

Hleb joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2008
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Hleb joined Barcelona from Arsenal in 2008REUTERS

Turning his attention to England, Hleb said he was optimistic about Pep’s chances in the Premier League with Manchester City. “He can have the same success he had in Manchester as he did in Barcelona,” he said. “I think that City and Arsenal will fight it out for the title.”

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